An arrest in a 2003 cold case kidnapping and rape could provide new answers to the murder of a 10-year-old girl who mysteriously vanished from the same small Washington town just six years later.
The Grays Harbor Sheriff’s Office announced it had arrested Paul Bieker on Tuesday for the 2003 rape and kidnapping of a 17-year-old girl, who was abducted from her McCleary home, sexually assaulted and abandoned in her own vehicle, after genetic genealogy led them the suspect nearly two decades later.
Authorities are now investigating whether Bieker could also be tied to the murder of Lindsey Baum, 10, who vanished from the same city on June 26, 2009. Her remains were discovered in 2018 in Kittitas County in eastern Washington, authorities said.
"There are some eerie similarities between the two cases," Grays County Undersheriff Brad Johansson told local station KCPQ-TV after the arrest. "How many kidnappers do you have in the same small town? However, they could end up being completely unrelated.”
According to the sheriff’s office, the 17-year-old girl was abducted in March of 2003 as she was returning home in her vehicle.
Photo: McCleary Police Department
The suspect attacked her, bound her up and threw her into her own vehicle before taking her to a second location and sexually assaulting her, authorities said.
The suspect then fled the scene, leaving the victim alone in the vehicle. She was eventually able to free herself and return home, where her father immediately called 911.
The teen victim, who wasn’t identified, was taken to an area hospital, where a sexual assault exam was performed and investigators recovered a DNA profile.
The profile was uploaded into a national criminal database, but no matches were found and the case continued to go unsolved for years.
Then, in December of 2020, Grays Harbor Sheriff’s Office Chief Darrin Wallace submitted the sample to a lab for genetic genealogy testing. The test was used to create a “short list of possible suspects” who may have committed the crime, authorities said.
Bieker was identified as a viable suspect after investigators learned he had lived in McCleary at the time of the crime, not far from the teenage victim.
Authorities said they also found “circumstantial evidence” linking him to the crime and were able to obtain his DNA from a discarded item to positively match his DNA to the sample obtained from the sexual assault examination.
“We would never stop trying to solve this case and as it turns out, we were able to get some closure for her and at least make an arrest in the case,” Johansson told KOMO.
Investigators are now trying to determine whether Bieker had been involved in Baum’s murder.
The 10-year-old vanished in 2009 while walking the short distance home from a friend’s house, Fox News reports.
“We just need to look into it further to see if this is the person we’re looking for in the Lindsey Baum case or if it’s just totally unrelated,” Johansson told the news outlet. “It’s our goal to not rest until that one is solved as well.”
Bieker is currently being held in the Grays Harbor County Jail.
Investigators are asking that anyone with information about the case contact authorities through the Lindsey Baum tip line at 360-964-1799 or email email@example.com.